An intriguing headline — “Pallister: Union Leaders No Longer Running the Province” (The Brandon Sun, March 18, 2017).
The way Manitoba’s government works is that it is the political party in power that “runs” the province.
As a certainty, the party in power is influenced by a variety of actors which include associations, federations of businesses, of workers, of professionals, of specific interests. A group which includes public service worker unions.
However, believing that public sector union leaders do or ever did run the province is somewhat of a stretch. Even for Premier Brian Pallister. Further, if one believes that public sector union leaders could run government, then, by the same logic, one can and should believe that the province is run by associations, federations, alliances which have easier and more effective influential access to government (that is, the political party in power) with respect to government policies and programmes than any public service union.
So why pick on public service unions?
It’s good politics which needs no logic. Oops, went too far. There is logic in a perverted way. Consider the context. Over the past several decades, the public has been conditioned to believe that public servants are overpaid, under-worked, uncaring and generally only focused on higher salaries and benefits.
It has become not only fashionable but also commendable to vilify and denigrate public servants as though the non-productive elements in society orient themselves to becoming public servants. Or conversely, public servants become non-productive. It has become fashionable to lay a large portion of the blame for government deficits and debt on public servants.
As well, the public has been conditioned to view alliances of workers as an impediment to the working of a “free-market” economy (regardless of whether we know what a free market is or how it should function).
Why would Premier Pallister not take the politically motivated opportunity to take advantage of these public attitudes toward public servants and their unions? Without the need to bring logic to the table, his government can use public attitudes to legitimize wage control, layoffs within the public service as one of the primary means to reduce government expenditures. Without the need for logic, his government can legitimize its intentions to arbitrarily and unilaterally de-legitimize public service unions.
But this is an ideologically driven response.
As with most, maybe all, ideologies, truth is defined by the ideology and does not allow for any other truth.
And part of the other truth is the obvious reality that the very people that he holds in contempt, the public servants, are the ones who are mandated to implement his policies and programmes. As trust begets trust, so does contempt beget contempt.
As Manitobans, we will be the recipients of services provided by our public servants, be they program administrators, receptionists, nurses, teachers, road maintenance workers ... demoralized and antagonized by Premier Pallister and his supporters.
Rosemarie and Chester Letkeman